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Scandinave Les Bains Vieux-Montréal, Montreal, Canada

Friday 20 Feb 2009

Fire and ice

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Spa design explores the contrasts and their effects 

Located in the heart of historic Old Montreal and facing the vibrant piers of Old Port, Scandinave Les Bains Vieux-Montréal is an urban spa whose purpose is to provide a thermal therapy experience that engages each of the body’s senses. The building, rebuilt half a century ago after extensive fire damage, has housed warehouse functions until recently when it was acquired by the new owners. The new spa is positioned at the ground/entrance level of the building. Included among the treatments offered are steam bath, sauna, a large heated pool for bathing, as well as massage therapies.

The formal parti of the project is derived from notions of physical contact between hot and cold — and more specifically, the naturally occurring phenomena that are associated with these conditions. White angular masses of glacial formations coupled with the porosity of volcanic rock recall a duality that is central to the experiential concept proposed by the Spa.

The spa’s open spaces have been designed according to a notion of interior topography to become a landscape that visitors will navigate. Just as in a natural landscape, slight undulations in the ground plane create gentle slopes. Depressions in the floor level generate basins of water for bathing. At particular moments, volumes emerge from the ground to sculpt interior zones containing the sauna and water vapour baths.

At the entrance to the spa and along de la Commune Street, a thin cascading layer of water flows on glass surfaces, filtering views so that from the exterior, passersby can see only shadowed silhouettes of the figures within the spa. Beyond the entrance area, white mosaic tile defines the wet zones of the spa. Here, opalescent glass has been added to admit natural light through the building’s existing openings while providing a sense of privacy for the visitors. The light that permeates the bath area glows, adding to the purity of the space and the feeling of tranquility for the bathers. In the more private zones of the spa — the locker areas and bathrooms — Brazilian walnut wood adds warmth to the space.

This sensorial environment of Scandinave Les Bains Vieux-Montréal is immersive, offering visitors an ideal setting to disconnect with their daily affairs and fully benefit from the thermal therapy offered.

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saucier + perrotte architectes

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